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Cycling apparel is very different from that of any other sports. Where you may be able to wear a regular t shirt for many sports, cycling requires garments that are more specific to the sport. Regular clothing can be worn to ride a bike, but you won’t get the most out of your time on two wheels without the proper apparel. Weather conditions, time of day and cycling discipline can all have an effect on the jersey you choose. Here’s a brief introduction to making the correct choice to suit your cycling needs.

Moisture Management

Even the pros work up a sweat on the bike and there’s nothing worse than cycling in a jersey that’s dripping wet. Moisture management is basically the ability of a garment to transport, or in other terms wick, moisture away from the skin to the garment’s outer layer. The removal of sweat from next to your skin not only acts to cool you down during hot conditions, it will also keep you warm when conditions cool. It has been scientifically proven that if moisture becomes trapped between your skin and the inner layer of jersey it can heat up and lead to fatigue or diminished performance. In colder conditions trapped moisture can have the opposite effect and cause unwanted chilling.
Not everyone sweats consistently all over their body and so moisture management also helps wick away areas of high sweat and spreads it out ensuring it evaporates quickly, evenly and effectively.
There are various polyester-based moisture management fabrics used in the cycle industry which all provide moisture management properties.

Breathability

Breathability is vital part of any cycling apparel. This function basically means that water vapour is allowed to pass through the material produced from sweat. Whatever the weather, breathability is a major priority for any rider. A breathable jersey helps regulate body temperature and improve the comfort of your ride. Coolmax is one of the most well known breathable fabrics. Back in the day wool was the fabric of choice but it’s itchy, scratchy consistency often irritated skin. On the plus side it did provide warmth to the wearer. Wool is still used today in some jerseys and base layers but usually in the form of Merino wool. Merino wool is considered the finest and softest wool out there but this extra luxury comes at a price.

Ventilation

Ventilation is something that people often confuse with breathability. While breathability allows expiration of heat, ventilation is an increased access to fresh air. In terms of ventilation for cycling jerseys, zipper length is of great importance. There are 3 main lengths that cycling jerseys generally come in. These are 1/4 length, 1/2 length and full length zips. A quarter length zipper’s main function is to allow the jersey to be easily removed while providing some ventilation while a 1/2 length zip provides the same function but with added ventilation. A full length zip opens very much like a jacket and provides great ventilation and is favoured by climbers or those wearing particularly tight fitting jerseys. Full length zippers are favoured by most professionals due to ability of maximum ventilation. However, in the past many pros were forced to wear a 1/4 or 1/2 length zip jersey in an attempt to gain sponsors maximum exposure at all times. Crossing the line after a monster climb of the Alpe d’Huez may be a lot more pleasant with an open jersey but it’s just not sponsor etiquette. For the weekend warrior or cyclist commuting to work this may not be so much a problem…

Cut

Traditionally cycling jerseys are designed to be close fitting. Baggy clothing can act like a sale as it flaps in the wind affecting your aerodynamics and therefore waste energy. A close fitting jersey can also enhance wicking properties. Obviously a tighter fitting jersey may not be everyone’s taste and jersey cuts can usually come in several different options. The recreational rider, commuter or weekend warrior may opt for a slightly looser fitting (more flattering) cut of jersey. If you’re worried about sausage casing issues the club fit may be the option for you. If you’re more interested in performance related issues then a race fit may be more up your street. One step further is an aero fit jersey. These jerseys are usually super tight in an attempt to maximise aerodynamics and are perfect for time trailing.

Manufactures regularly talk about anatomic fit in relation to jerseys. This basically means that the jersey has been designed with the shape of the human body in mind. This is more important in cycling than in other sports due to the restriction of movement in the upper part of a cyclists body and the hunched position of a rider. Obviously every rider’s specific riding position will differ slightly but jerseys are designed to take the riding posture into account.

A longer rear panel ensures your lower back is covered while riding and counteracts the curvature of the back in the riding position. Sleeves for long sleeve jerseys may seem longer than necessary when not on your bike but again are designed with riding comfort in mind. The cut of sleeves for cycling jerseys will often fall into two categories of style. These are traditional and raglan.

Traditional sleeves have a seam that runs straight up from the arm pit as seen in the picture. This is the style used on various non sporting t-shirts and if you’re wearing a t shirt at the moment (obviously some people read our blogs topless) the chances are it will have the same stitching. The raglan sleeve design have a seam that runs directly from the neckline to the arm pit. This style may be more suited for riders who use the drop bars on a regular basis or often ride low in an aero position. This design allows a wider range of movement.

To keep sleeves and waist hems in place during your ride jerseys often feature a gripper to stop material from riding up. These can come in the form of rubber on your more cost effective jerseys or in silicon on the more flash apparel.

Visibiliy

Depending on the time of your ride, you will want as much visibility to other road users as possible. Jerseys designed for commuting, touring or weekend riding will often feature reflective elements subtly incorporated into stitching, piping or labels. During the day these safety options may not be invisible to the naked eye but on a badly lit road during the evening or early morning this small detail can be life saving. Reflective elements come in various forms on jerseys, from logos to piping and sleeve trim to tag labels but all serve the same purpose.

Fluro jersey designs also have the same safety issues in mind and are aimed at the daily commuter or rider who navigate busy traffic in city centres on a regular basis. Hi visibility clothing isn’t just made for riding during low level lighting situations and can prove just as effective during the day.

 

Design

Most of the team jerseys you will see in the pro peloton will be printed using a process called sublimation. This process was first brought to cycling by Castelli in 1983. This process for printing colour and patterns onto a jersey uses heat and pressure. The heat and pressure cause the ink on a paper template to turn into a gas which permanently impregnates the fabric creating a vibrant and long lasting design.

The main benefit of a process like this is that the image is permanent and will not crack or fade like other methods. This method is perfectly suited to cycling jerseys as the ink impregnates the fabric instead of laying on top of the fabric. This also means that the printing process does not interfere with the wicking properties or breathability of the garment.

So there you have it, an introduction to cycling jerseys. After reading this blog we hope that you now have a clearer picture of what type of jersey is going to suit your cycling needs. If you’re looking for a new team jersey or to replace your trusty commuter top, check out our good, better, best categories over at the probikekit website.

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A hub of reviews, advice and news from the online road cycling experts at ProBikeKit.